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NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Biggest Risers and Fallers Heading into Final Stretch

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 23, 2013

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Biggest Risers and Fallers Heading into Final Stretch

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    And down the stretch they come.

    Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis have separated themselves from the pack while the injury bug continues to infect some of the top rookies in the class.

    One of the newer rookies to the board is surging up the ranks, flashing potential star power over the past two months as a late-season bloomer.

    We've also added a new rookie at the No. 9 spot, a player who's taken advantage of his expanded role in the offense.

10. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 9

    Alexey Shved's whole body of work is what's keeping him on the board, as his minutes in Minnesota's rotation are starting to take a hit.

    He's only played 20 minutes once in his last four games and is really struggling with the three-ball.

    Shved is a nice player, averaging 9.5 points and nearly four assists as a versatile, sizable combo guard, but this could be his last appearance on the top-10 list if his role doesn't change.

9. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: Unranked

    Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jonas Valanciunas to the top-10 rookie board.

    Though he missed a good chunk of the season, Valanciunas has been solid when given minutes. And this March, he's getting them.

    He's now scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games. This week, he went for 18 points and seven boards against Miami and 18 and eight against Charlotte.

    Valanciunas is a skilled center and gives Toronto a welcomed offensive option in the half court. He's much better with room to operate. But once he starts to develop some counter moves to neutralize the help defense and double teams, he'll be a tough mismatch in the post for most front lines.

8. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 7

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played well in a win over Washington, finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-9 from the field. But it was his second double-digit scoring game in his last eight contests.

    He followed up the Washington game with two points and one shot attempt in 20 minutes against the Raptors.

    Creating his own shot off the dribble, particularly in the mid-range, should be the focus of Kidd-Gilchrist's offseason to-do list.

7. Harrison Barnes, Golden State

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 6

    Harrison Barnes scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting against the Spurs, but couldn't impact the scoreboard in Golden State's previous two games, both of which were blowout wins.

    He's not creating much for himself off the dribble, rather relying on his teammates' creativity to get him open looks. The result is inconsistent scoring opportunities.

    Only twice all season has Barnes strung together a stretch of at least three consecutive double-digit scoring games.

    Barnes is averaging nine points on 44.5 percent shooting and 35.2 percent from downtown, respectable numbers for a rookie.

6. Moe Harkless, Orlando Magic

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 8

    Moe Harkless went off on Oklahoma City, putting up 25 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals. He's now scored in double figures in 16 of his last 18 games and is getting awfully comfortable with the NBA spacing and pace.

    Harkless is a stud prospect who's going to get better and better as his body fills out. He has power forward instincts on the interior and a smooth approach on the perimeter, with fluid athleticism and long arms for a wing.

    Once his jumper improves, Harkless could end up looking like an alternate version of Rudy Gay.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 5

    Bradley Beal went down with yet another ankle injury Wednesday night after missing six games earlier this month with the same problem. He sat out Friday's game against the Lakers, and it's likely he sits out a few more until the ankle is back to full strength.

    Injuries have been an issue for Beal all season, as has his 41 percent shooting from the field when healthy.

    But Beal's athleticism and shot-making ability contribute to nearly 14 points per game, and there's plenty of room for him to grow as an NBA-level scorer.

4. Andre Drummond, Detroit

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 4

    The Pistons continue to take every precaution with their prized rookie, who has said he's been recently dunking while waiting for the green light to return.

    But at this point, it would be hard to imagine that light ever turning on. There wouldn't be much of a point in bringing him back for the last few weeks, especially with Detroit eying a top pick in the draft.

    We've seen enough through three months to say that Drummond could be the third-best rookie in the 2012 draft class when it's all said and done.

3. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 3

    An injury has caused Dion Waiters to miss the last two games, with an MRI revealing a small piece of loose cartilage in his knee.

    He'll be out at least a week, which adds him to the list of rookies who've fallen victim to the grueling NBA schedule.

    Waiters is averaging nearly 15 points per game, an impressive number considering he only scored 20 points three times in two years at Syracuse.

    Still, there are obvious improvements he must make, most notably with his shot selection. Waiters shoots 41.1 percent from the floor, 31.6 percent from downtown and only gets 3.6 free-throw attempts per game.

    If his goal is to become a volume scorer, he has to be more efficient. But the kid can obviously score the ball at the NBA level and should be a feared offensive threat for the rest of his career.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 2

    Down a point to the Boston Celtics on New Orleans' final possession, Eric Gordon made a drive to the hoop that eventually rimmed out—until Anthony Davis' ridiculously long right arm came flying into the picture. 

    Davis got the winning tip-in with .3 seconds on the clock to give the Hornets a win despite Gordon's last-second miss.

    And that's what he does. Davis gives you margin for error by getting his team easy baskets.

    He went for 18 points and 15 boards in a win over Memphis this week as well. He looks like a young Marcus Camby out there, flying around the court and finishing plays off the ball.

    With proper spacing on the floor, Davis is unstoppable as a pick-and-roll target with the ability to catch and finish over a foot above the rim.

    He's a multidimensional offensive weapon and an asset on defense. Davis and Damian Lillard are in a tier of their own among the 2012 rookie class.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 1

    Damian Lillard played four games this week, losing the first in a head-to-head matchup with Jrue Holiday. Lillard finished with 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds before LaMarcus Aldridge missed a potential game-winner.

    He followed with one of his worst shooting nights of the season in a loss to Milwaukee, though somewhat salvaged his 2-of-10, eight-point stat line with 11 assists.

    Portland then went on to beat Chicago and Atlanta, with Lillard scoring 24 and 22 points, respectively.

    Lillard is an obvious talent with loads of star power, but before activating it, he'll need to do a better job of picking and choosing when to facilitate and when to attack.

    Otherwise, no complaints here. He defines the term NBA-ready, averaging 19.1 points and 6.5 assists in his first year on the job. Portland gave him his own office, and Lillard's feet are confidently up.

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